with blood the color of a Blue Hurricane
To say that the 2022 Final Four has been overrun by the blue bloods of college basketball would be to traffic in understatement; a quality unfamiliar to the very nature of New Orleans. The four participating schools have accounted for nine of the last 20 NCAA titles (Duke: 2001, 2010, 2015, North Carolina: 2005, 2009, 2017, Kansas: 2008, Villanova: 2016, 2018). On the all-time wins list, Kansas, North Carolina and Duke rank #1, #3 and #4, respectively. And, save for Tar Heel rookie Hubert Davis, the remaining three coaches have all crossed the 600-win threshold, with Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski the all-time leader at an astounding 1,202 victories. The NCAA tournament has included at least one of these competitors every year since 1973, so while none of the remaining squads will be overwhelmed by the size of the stage, only one will be showering in confetti cannon debris at the conclusion of Monday night.
Semifinal #1: Villanova vs. Kansas
If the contest comes down to a second-half surge, advantage Kansas. In Chicago’s Midwest Regional final, the Jayhawks turned a six-point halftime deficit into a 26-point thrashing of Miami. KU held the Hurricanes to just 15 second-half points, kept UM scoreless from behind the arc (0–13) and, after scoring just seven first-half points off turnovers/fast breaks, tallied 24 in half number two to pull away. Beware, though, in engaging Villanova in a free-throw shooting contest. Over their four tournament games, the Wildcats have converted 53 of 59 attempts (90%), including a perfect 15–15 in their 50–44 Elite Eight win over Houston.
The pick (in honor of late, great KU alum Bob Dole): KANSAS
Semifinal #2: North Carolina vs. Duke
Duke has had a full four weeks to digest its humbling 94–81 defeat to the bitter rival Tar Heels in Coach K’s final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Both the Blue Devil bulletin board and the squad’s output has filled out since then. The offense has been remarkably consistent, scoring exactly 78 points in three of its four tourney outings, (peaking with 81 in the second-round win over Michigan State). Carolina, meanwhile, has been demonstrating the folly of its #8 seed, bouncing top-seeded Baylor in round number two and disposing of #4 UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen. UNC cruised to the Final Four by ousting upstart Saint Peter’s by 20.
North Carolina/Duke alum Ken Jeong reveals the Masked Ringer: UNC
…and, the ultimate net-cutter-downer: KANSAS JAYHAWKS